On my home network, I’m usually playing host to anywhere from half-a-dozen to a dozen PCs that include desktops, notebooks, tablets, and even an Xbox One. Along with those computing devices, I’ve got a variety of other elements that include my boundary device to Time Warner cable (an Arris box that supports 802.11ac wireless as well as GbE), and a couple of printers. Owing to topology issues — namely, a single GbE wired port upstairs — I had until recently elected to attach my Dell 2155cn color laser printer via USB to my wife’s PC, rather than wiring it up to the in-house Ethernet as a network-attached device. Sure, network printing has all kinds of advantages, but I never felt compelled to extend my topology at the end of the upstairs link until recently.
But in the last month, my wife’s mini-ITX PC (built around a very nice little JetWay JNF9G-QM77 motherboard with an i7-3630QM low-voltage processor) started dropping the USB-attached printer about once a week. I’m not sure if a driver change is responsible, or if the USB circuitry is getting flaky, but something weird was going on. After spending over an hour trying unsuccessfully to troubleshoot the latest glitch on Monday, I dashed over to Fry’s on Tuesday to pick up an el-cheapo GbE switch. That evening, I dropped in said switch, and attached both her PC and the printer to separate ports via Cat6 cables so that the Dell printer could take up independent residence on the network.
Network Printing Works Immediately and Correctly
Immediately, the Dell printer showed up in Devices and Printers in the “Add a printer” selection box, bearing the name DELLCB745E. Upon using Nir Sofer’s excellent Fast Resolver tool to check the printer’s IP address (eventually, I’ll create a static reservation for that address in the Arris routing tables) to learn that the final six characters of the device name are also the last six hexadecimal digits of its MAC address. This is the portion that “uniquely” identifies the specific network interface built into the printer, as compared to all other similar devices from the same maker, which provides a reasonable way to construct a unique device name for network access. Also makes network printing better able to provide easily identifiable and usable device names.
No sooner attached, than network printing starts up, visible in Printers and Devices.
Better still, the printer is now available to the entire network directly and not just to my wife’s PC. That means she can now power it off when she’s not using that PC because it’s no longer necessary to keep it running to provide printer access. Windows 10 is able to see the device for what it is, and able to automagically download the correct drivers on its own without any human intervention. All in all, I’d have to say the change is worth the $35-40 it cost me for the upstairs switch and the two Cat6 cables I had to buy to put all the pieces together. Network printing provides a definite improvement over intermittent availability when attached via USB!